Sigma Tau Delta International Convention Observations (Heather Collen)

Heather Collen

Having the opportunity to go to Portland for the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention was an experience I will not likely forget anytime soon. I had the opportunity to speak to actual authors and poets and hear how their writing process works. I met Ursula K. LeGuin, Timothy Egan, Anne Fadiman, Carl Adamshick, Alexis Smith, and Virginia Euwer Wolff.  Each of these individuals had something different to offer and had a unique perspective on life. Their experience as authors was interesting to hear about because there are not very many moments in life where I will be surrounded by so many different types of authors again.

I also attended a session on different essays involving language matters and teaching. In this session, there were four different students who read their papers. These students were from Missouri, Indiana, and California and they all offered very diverse views on subjects pertaining to language matters. My favorite essay from this session was from a girl from California who discussed the necessity of grammar and self-expression. Many of the things she touched on in her paper pertained to the class I am taking this semester on the Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing. She talked about how students and teachers should embrace every individual voice and not try to shut a student’s creativity down. She also talked about the definition of “correct” English which is a question we have been discussing in class. She had some great points in her essay which really related to what I am currently learning and thinking about this semester.

Another session I attended was one on teaching secondary English. This may have been the most educational session of the convention which I attended.  Hearing the experiences of three English teachers who have each taught for more than twenty-five years was very informational and enjoyable because I am going to be a secondary English teacher. I even had the opportunity to talk to one of the teachers after the session and have them elaborate on some of his teaching methods. One of which was his idea of “Literature Circles.” The main idea behind this is to have the students get into small groups and discuss the literature they are currently reading. The groups can all be reading the same book or each group can be reading different books. This helps the students learn how to analyze a piece of literature while picking out what most interests them at the same time. I really liked this idea and I will try to apply this method when I do become a teacher myself. I also got an outline of a National English Honor Society (NEHS) chapter outline. NEHS is the Sigma Tau Delta society for high school students. If I were to create one of these chapters in my own school, I have a chapter outline to work off of and help me to figure out the best way to have a successful NEHS chapter in my school.

            The convention also had many activities in which every chapter had the opportunity to come together and be English nerds. There was the dry t-shirt contest, the bad poetry contest, an Open Mic event, the opening events, and a dinner gala at the very end of the convention. At all of these events, I met all sorts of fellow English nerds from around the country. I listened to some really great poetry and some purposefully terrible poetry. At the Open Mic, I witnessed people with great writing and poetic talents and could even ask for a copy of any poem or story that I really liked. The dinner gala was an opportunity for all of us to dress up really fancy and attend an amazing dinner. At the dinner there was also an awards ceremony for those people who read their essays, poems, and stories at the convention throughout the week. The winners received money, and seeing all of those people win for something they wrote for a class or for fun was awesome to watch. If I were not graduating before the next Sigma Tau Delta convention I would consider entering something of my own just to have the opportunity to have the same excitement as those winners did.

            Everyone at the convention was extremely welcoming because we all shared a common interest: a love for English. If you asked someone for a copy of their essay they were very willing to give you one or to at least exchange e-mails so that they could send you a copy. People were always willing to talk about anything and I learned a lot about other people’s opinions of the educational system and different methods of teaching English in general. The fact that the conference was held in the City of Books in Portland made the experience even better. There is a book store in Portland called Powell’s Books which gave the conference coupons to give out as raffle prizes and coupons to go to the store and buy books for a discount. This created an atmosphere that a book lover like me greatly enjoyed. I almost cannot imagine any other city being like Portland.

            If someone were to ask me if going to the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention in 2014 would be worth it, I would definitely encourage them to go. Being surrounded by almost 1,000 other members of Sigma Tau Delta from around the country and even from other countries is an exciting experience that will most likely never come again. The authors I had the chance to listen speak and talk to afterwards were all great people with amazing insight into writing. I also heard students read very interesting and creative papers (one of which was our very own member, Hannah) which opened my mind to the variety of ideas and the amount of imagination in this world. The people were friendly, the presenters were educational, the city was beautiful, and I had a great time with my fellow members. I think anyone who is thinking about going to this convention should stop thinking about it and just go. I know that I learned a lot from the sessions and presentations I attended while in Portland. Anyone who wants to attend this convention should because they will meet people who share similar loves and learn new ways to think about English issues. I enjoyed my time in Portland and I am very glad I decided to attend the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention.

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